Incubators Take Hold in Continental Europe –

PARIS – Various forms of incubators have mushroomed over the last year among major management consultants, advisory groups, existing online businesses and information technology-focused venture firms mainly in the Anglo-Saxon markets. But the incubator culture is now taking hold in Continental Europe.

Fi System Group, the Paris-based Web communications, technology and marketing consultant, in February announced the launch of its own Internet incubator, Access2Net. Nouveau Marche listed Fi System as providing 35% of the fund’s initial FFr 60 million ($8.9 million) capital from its own balance sheet, with management and employees putting up the remainder.

The group plans to tap third party sources to take the fund to around FFr 500 million ($74 million) in the near future. FI System associate manager Denis Lafont, who will head Access2Net during its launch phase, does not rule out the possibility of an early initial public offering for the incubator.

Access2Net will operate at arms’ length from FI System in terms of investment decisions, but investees will benefit from FI System’s technical, marketing and recruitment expertise. Later, the group’s extensive network of venture capital, banking and client contacts may provide future partners for the incubated companies.

The incubator fund is targeting seed- to very early-stage investments and will normally take stakes of between 10% and 25% in selected Internet-related ventures, in the hope of setting them on the fast track to an IPO. Whereas many current venture funds appear to favor business-to-business e-commerce companies to business-to-consumer operations, FI System appears to find both sectors equally exciting.